Overcoming your fears (1)

Job 11:18 NIV

Famous people throughout history have suffered from phobias. Napoleon was crippled by ailurophobia, an irrational fear of cats. Queen Elizabeth I was terrorized by [anthophobia], an abnormal fear of flowers (she particularly feared roses). Billionaire Howard Hughes was practically incapacitated by mysophobia, a pathological fear of germs. Edgar Allen Poe, Harry Houdini, and Adolph Hitler suffered from claustrophobia. Even the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, grappled with agoraphobia, a fear of crowds and public places. The trouble is that many of us deny dealing with any kind of overwhelming fear, and rarely consider it a serious problem. But the fact remains that our fears hinder us on our journey toward change, and unless we face them we’ll never reach our God-given potential. Maybe you don’t view the thing that’s bothering you as a fear at all. It could be a feeling or situation you habitually avoid, or leave to others to handle. Whatever it is, the only way to overcome it is to call it what it is, confront it, draw on God’s strength, and make a decision to change. And today He offers you His strength to do it. Here’s a promise you can stand on: “You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and…rest in safety.” Where does that promise originate? The Bible – God’s infallible Word! And here’s another “fear not” promise: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV).

Soul food: Rom 3:21-6:23; John 8:31-41; Ps 83:1-8; Prov 29:19-22

God loves them – you must too

Acts 10:28 CEV

From a Jewish point of view Cornelius, a Gentile, was a bad guy. He ate the wrong food, hung out with the wrong crowd, and swore allegiance to the wrong leader: Caesar. He didn’t quote the Torah or descend from Abraham. He was uncircumcised, unkosher, and unclean. Yet he did two things that got God’s attention. He prayed for spiritual enlightenment, and he was generous to the poor and needy. The Bible says he was “one who feared God with all his household…gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (v. 2 NKJV). Up until this point the gospel had been preached only to the Jews. But God was about to change that. And to do it He used Peter, one of the most religiously biased people you’ll ever meet. In a vision, God showed Peter a sheet being let down from heaven; it was filled with all kinds of food Jews are forbidden to eat. Peter protested, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean” (v. 14 NKJV). And since Peter was slow to understand, the sheet was let down three times. Finally a voice from heaven said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (v. 15 NKJV). As a result, Peter went to Cornelius’s house and preached the gospel. And before he could issue an invitation, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were present, confirming that this was God’s will. At that point Peter declared, “God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit.” Let God show you that too!

Soul food: Gen 10-12; John 11:38-44; Ps 118:1-9; Prov 31:6-9

Pray. Listen. Act

Ezekiel 40:4 NIV

When we’re praying, it can be tempting to list off all our requests to God. We tell Him all the things we want Him to do, and forget to take the time to listen to what He wants us to do. If we stop for a minute and listen to what He’s got to say, He can use us in great ways. There are many books in the Old Testament which are written by prophets. From Isaiah to Jeremiah, Hosea to Ezekiel, these people listened to what God had to say. On one occasion, God came to Ezekiel in the form of a man who said: ‘look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here.’ We may feel that we don’t hear from God, that we wouldn’t have a moment when God spoke to us like He did to Ezekiel. But that’s not true. We may not hear an audible voice like Samuel: ‘The Lord came and stood there, calling…”Samuel! Samuel!” (1 Samuel 3:10 NIV). But God speaks to all of us, it just may not be in the way we expect Him to. We also need to practice listening to Him as it can be hard to recognise His voice when we’re not used to spending time with Him. But listening is not the end result; it’s just the beginning. Ezekiel was told to ‘tell the people of Israel everything’ he saw. Once we’ve heard what God wants to say, we need to act. Whether it’s something we need to change in our lives, something we need to start believing or something to share with others, let’s be obedient.

1 Cor 15-16; Mark 15:33-47; Ps 51; Prov 25:23-25

Shame-based thinking (1)

Romans 12:2 CEV

When you’ve been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, it undermines your self-worth. You think, “If someone did that to me, there must be something wrong with me.” You feel like your soul is soiled; like you’re “damaged goods.” But you’re not! These two Scriptures are from God’s lips to your heart: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt” (Jeremiah 31:3-4 NIV). “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past… I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV). What happened to you was bad, but you are not bad! Today God says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God” (Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV). Shame and depression go hand in hand. And while doctors can prescribe medication for depression, there’s no remedy for shame – except the medicine of God’s Word. So instead of believing your thoughts and emotions, stand on God’s Word regardless of how you feel. Being ashamed of who you are is like being perpetually punished – except you’re doing it to yourself. What’s the solution? “Let God change the way you think.”

Soul food: 1 John 3:11-5:21; Mark 1:21-34; Ps 78:56-64; Prov 20:7-10

When God calls you

Isaiah 48:15 NIV

God told Jeremiah, ‘Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work’ (Jeremiah 1:5 NCV). When God decides to use us, five things happen: first, there’s a call. God asks ordinary people to do extraordinary things, like Peter getting out of a boat and walking on water. Second, there’s fear. When God called Moses to stand before Pharaoh, he said, ‘Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words…please! Send somebody else!’ (Exodus 4:10;13 MSG). Third, there’s reassurance. The thought of having to fill Moses’ shoes must have terrified Joshua, so God told him, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Joshua 1:5 NIV). Fourth, there’s a decision. Sometimes we say yes to God and sometimes we say no. When we say yes we live with joy; when we say no that joy can pass us by. But there’s always a choice. Fifth, there’s a changed life. When we say yes to God’s call we don’t suddenly do everything perfectly. But because we said yes, we learn and grow even from our failures. Our failures often become part of our ability to reach out to others. And when we say no to God we’re changed too; but not in the best way. We become a little more resistant to His calling, and a little more likely to say no next time. So is God calling us today? Maybe it’s to do with our future career, or our current job, or our relationships, or our money, or facing our biggest fears. God’s call will go to the core of who we are and what we do. Saying yes to Him is the best decision we’ll ever make.

Zeph 1-3; Mat 27:45-56; Ps 46; Prov 19:18-20